Topics:  biosecurity queensland, michael brennan, rabbits, weather

Rabbits prosper in the wet

Craig Warhurst

GYMPIE might not be in a high density rabbit zone but there are plenty of local landowners in the region who have been spotting them for years.

Jockeys at the Gympie showgrounds said this week they now had to dodge them every morning on the race track.

Rabbits are one of Australia's major agricultural and environmental animal pests, costing between $600 million and $1 billion annually.

The national rabbit scan map at feralscan.org.au, where residents can report and map rabbit sightings, identifies Long Flat, Pomona, Cooran and Gympie itself as having a "low abundance" of rabbits, but the Two Mile, Curra and Glenwood as having a "high abundance".

Goomeri, Murgon and Kingaroy have a "very high abundance", it says.

Biosecurity Queensland scientist Michael Brennan said yesterday there were no specific population figures available for rabbits in the Gympie area, but that the Darling Downs-Moreton Rabbit Board area and rabbit-proof fence had protected south-east Queensland from any major rabbit invasions for more than 100 years.

The last two wet seasons had, however no doubt produced some scattered population increases in the south-east, Mr Brennan said.

Gympie had "historically not been an area of high rabbit activity, although RHD virus was released in this area in the late '90s as one of many areas across the state when we did a broadscale release of RHDV", he said.

The equation for estimating the number of rabbits in an area is as follows:

If you count rabbits per kilometre in a driven spotlight count and see X number of rabbits, multiply that by 17 to get the average number of rabbits living above ground.

Calculating the number of rabbits living underground is more complicated and involves counting the number of active versus inactive burrow entrances per warren, and multiplying the number of active entrances by 1.6 to give the number of rabbits for that warren.

Rabbits compete with native animals, destroy the landscape and are a primary cause of soil erosion. All varieties of rabbit including domestic breeds are Class 2 declared pest animals under Queensland legislation.

It is the responsibility of landholders to control rabbits on their land.

Gympie Council offers a free control service where caught rabbits are infected with the Kalysis virus.

The guide for landholders needing to control rabbits is at dpi.qld.gov.au.

 

DIFFERENCES

Rabbits

  •  Usually grey-brown with a pale belly; black or ginger can also be common
  •  Long hind legs, short front legs
  •  Long ears, large eyes
  •  Weighs 1.3-2.3kg

Hares

  •  Larger and faster
  •  Longer ears, larger feet
  •  Long, strong hind legs


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